- The wins give the 21-year-old Wake Forest, North Carolina, resident full Tour status and a spot in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Ever since he was a little kid, Akshay Bhatia dreamt of being on the PGA Tour and being the best golfer. Now the 21-year-old Indian American golfer has the opportunity to do just that. This past weekend, he won his maiden PGA Tour title at the Barracuda Championship in California by defeating Patrick Rodgers. The win, which earns him full Tour status and a spot in the FedEx Cup playoffs, comes nearly four years after the 21-year-old turned professional. The Barracuda was Bhatia’s 18th start of the season and 35th career as a professional on the PGA Tour.
The young golfer got emotional when he spoke with the Golf Channel after his July 22 win. “I can’t even talk,” Bhatia said. “I was telling my caddie, like your brain and everything, you can feel all this adrenaline, all this shakiness. It’s pretty crazy.” He got a birdie on the first playoff hole, which gave him the winning advantage, securing 40 points. “I’m in the playoffs now, which was a huge goal for me,” he said. “I mean, I’m just excited. I love playing golf, I love playing on the PGA Tour, and it’s just a dream come true to have it.” Acknowledging that it’s been “a really tough road,” he said he knew that if he was “going to get here, it was just a matter of time. For it to happen this year with Special Temporary Membership and now to get to play all these events and to get it done today was, I can’t even describe it.”
Things got more sentimental when he was asked about his girlfriend, Presleigh Schultz, who has caddied for him in the past. “Even if I question myself, she’s always right there by my side,” Bhatia said. “I can’t wait to celebrate with her.” The two met online in 2021 April before the Valero Texas Open when he messaged her on Instagram and the pair hit it off. She however didn’t have an idea about the sport he played. In January 2022, she caddied for him when he won the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic in his first Korn Ferry Tour start as a member. “To win Bahamas with her was very special.”
This season, Bhatia has played in 18 PGA Tour events this season. Before this win, the Wake Forest, North Carolina resident finished T9 at the Barbasol Championship. He finished runner-up at the Puerto Rico Open and has recorded four top 10s, six top 25s, and has made 13 of 18 cuts.
Bhatia had a distinguished junior career and was the first high-schooler to play on the U.S. Walker Cup team. Although colleges were lining up for his services, he decided to bypass a colligate career and turn pro at age 17 in 2019. But he had a rocky start. He first gained national attention in 2017 when he played with the winning team of the 2017 Junior Presidents Cup. At the Boys Junior PGA Championship, Bhatia, then 15, set several records. “He carded an all-time course and championship record 61, at the 42nd Boys Junior PGA Championship” at the Country Club of St. Albans in Missouri, according to the JuniorPGA website.
He had a rocky start when he turned professional in September 2019. He made his PGA Tour debut at the Valspar Championship on a sponsorship exemption, but he missed the cut. That season (2019-2020), Bhatia missed making the cut in six tournaments. Right before turning professional, Bhatia won the 2019 Jones Cup Invitational. He’s been lighting up the fairway ever since with his powerful swing.